Turkish Court Postpones Decision on Status of Hagia Sophia

The Turkish Council of State – the country’s highest administrative body – delayed a decision on whether the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople can be converted into a mosque on Thursday.

After a hearing lasting just 17 minutes, the body said it would make a ruling within 15 days.

The 1,500 year old UNESCO World Heritage site was originally a cathedral for almost 1,000 years before being turned into a mosque, and then a secular museum in the 1930s. It may become a mosque again if the court approves the move.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday urged Turkey to let Hagia Sophia remain a museum.

Pompeo stated that Hagia Sophia has been recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage site for nearly a century, and should be maintained as such by Turkey to show respect for history.

If Turkey were to change the status of the museum, Pompeo wrote that the US would regard the decision as the country trying to diminish the legacy of the remarkable building.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hami Aksoy responded to Pompeo by saying that “Hagia Sophia is the property of Turkey.”

“We remind once again a reality that we have to repeat constantly. The Hagia Sophia is the property of Turkey, like all our cultural assets located on our land. Every kind of power disposition regarding Hagia Sophia is also an issue concerning our internal affairs within Turkey’s sovereignty rights,” Aksoy added.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual head of some 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide who is based in Istanbul, said converting it to a mosque would disappoint Christians and would “fracture” East and West.